06/10/2011 03:04 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2011

30 Years Later, the Fight Against AIDS Continues Thanks to U.S. Leadership

Since the first published reports of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) 30 years ago this month, we have seen remarkable achievements in the global response to AIDS -- in large part due to tremendous support from the United States.

Through the help of Americans, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and the U.S. president's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have provided the overwhelming majority of treatment and care for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings around the world. The U.S. made the first contribution to the Global Fund at its start in 2002 and continues to be its largest donor and a strong champion. In 2003, under the leadership of former President George W. Bush, PEPFAR was launched and the program continues today under the support of the Obama Administration.

These contributions have made a substantial difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Global Fund has disbursed more than $13 billion to governments and local organizations to support disease educational programs, provide drugs and diagnostics, and strengthen health care systems. For every dollar it receives from the U.S., the Global Fund is able to leverage more than $2 from other donor countries. Together, the Global Fund and PEPFAR have provided nearly 5 million adults and children with lifesaving antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS.

We have made great strides in the fight, but HIV/AIDS is still a pandemic affecting more than 33 million people worldwide. In 2009, 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV, with more than two-thirds of these new cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Every day, more than 1,000 children are born HIV-positive around the world.

But, HIV/AIDS is not solely a numbers game. Equally important, it is a narrative of stories and shared experiences in the prevention, care and treatment of those living with HIV/AIDS around the world. There was a bleak start after the initial discovery of HIV/AIDS in 1981, but the growing number of success stories during the nine-year history of the Global Fund has painted a picture of renewed health and hope for those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Mulikat Odutayo, a counselor at Lagos General Hospital in Nigeria, struggled upon learning of her HIV-positive diagnosis four years ago. Through the help of HIV and tuberculosis medications provided by the Global Fund, she was able to turn her attention to counseling other men and women taking their first steps toward HIV testing and treatment.

When she was desperate to start her own family, Mulikat turned to her doctors, who were able to provide her with a package of services, medicines and care supported by donor contributions to successfully prevent the transmission of HIV to her newborn baby. Her son, Mumbarak, is a now healthy, precocious child who does not have HIV and is part of a new chapter in the fight against AIDS. Such achievements can be shared today because of joint collaboration between public and private partners through organizations like the Global Fund.

Thankfully, Mulikat's story is not unique -- she is one of many women the Global Fund has helped. Between 2002 and the end of 2010, one million HIV-positive pregnant women received support from the Global Fund to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with more than 210,000 soon-to-be mothers treated in 2010 alone. In fact, with continued support, it is possible to eliminate transmission of HIV from mothers to their children by 2015.

I am serving as a member of the U.S. government delegation at the United Nations' General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS this week, and I hope countries will use this meeting as an opportunity to redouble their commitment to battling these diseases. This session offers the perfect moment to reflect on the gains we've made as well as devise a solid plan of action for continuing to work together globally to save and improve lives.

Through this partnership, the support of the American people and continued funding, we can capitalize on the tremendous momentum we have in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Sustained U.S. leadership through contributions to the Global Fund will greatly expand access to treatment, as well as scaled up efforts to prevent HIV transmission through new and emerging interventions such as male circumcision, treatment of early HIV infection, microbicides and, I hope, someday, HIV vaccines. Let's build on the progress made in the past 30 years and achieve our shared end goal -- a world free of HIV/AIDS.